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Clippers' 12-2 run in fourth quarter seals victory

HOUSTON (AP) -- Winning is no surprise to these Clippers.

Sam Cassell scored 24 points to lead the Clippers past the Houston Rockets 99-91 on Monday night, pushing the franchise to 13 games over .500 for the first time since the 1975-76 season -- when it was called the Buffalo Braves.

Corey Maggette added 20 points for the Clippers, who, appropriately, were wearing orange and black Braves uniforms from the franchise's inaugural 1970-71 season for retro night.

"Since Cat [Cuttino Mobley] and I got here, we've been expecting to win," Cassell said. "People were saying, 'It's still the Clippers.' But just the attitude he and I bring has made a difference.

"Elton Brand is progressing and Corey Maggette has done well. Hey, we've got a lot of talent in this locker room."

Mobley, like Cassell, is in his first season with the Clippers.

"We should be at least 19 games over .500 right now," Mobley said. "I've been telling guys we could do this since the beginning of the season. We're going for the 50 [wins] and the playoffs. I can't wait."

But Cassell knows the Clippers' reputation won't change overnight.

"It's going to take more than one year," he said. "But we've got a heck of a start. No doubt about it, L.A. is a great place, especially when you're winning."

Yao Ming scored 25 and had 17 rebounds for his 27th double-double as Houston lost its fifth straight game.

"For me, it's a breath of fresh air when we make a couple of shots from the outside," Yao said. "That takes a lot of pressure off me and my game. Before we make some shots, everything has to go inside and it's just too crowded. When our guards make some outside shots, we're able to move some stuff around better."

Guard Luther Head scored 20 points, including 2-of-6 3s, and had six assists.

"This is getting real old," Head said of the losing. "There are a lot of things we need to work on both on and off the court. All we can do is break it down, watch some film and hopefully get better."

Coach Jeff Van Gundy wasn't as concerned with Cassell as he was the Rockets' failure to get back on transition.

"There's a lot that goes into winning and a lot that goes into losing," Van Gundy said. "Our second-half defense just led to another close loss.

"And their 21 points on transition in the first half, that was preventable."

The Clippers outscored Houston 12-2 in a span of 4:15 in the fourth quarter to take an 89-80 lead with 5:16 to play. Cassell's 3-pointer made it 94-85 with 1:28 to play.

Cassell scored seven points in the first five minutes of the third quarter to help the Clippers to their biggest lead, 60-51.

Houston answered with an 11-0 run. But Maggette hit two straight 3s in an 8-0 Clippers run to give them a 68-62 lead with 2:59 left in the period. Maggette had eight in the quarter as Los Angeles took a 73-70 lead into the fourth quarter.

Maggette had eight points in the first 7:30 of the second period as the Clippers took a 39-33 lead. Luther Head's six points the final four minutes helped pull Houston to within 46-45 at the half.

The Rockets led by as many as eight in the first quarter when Yao had eight points and five rebounds. Cassell had 12 that period and the Clippers closed it to 28-24 at the end.

Game notes
The Rockets claimed G Richie Frahm off waivers from Minnesota on Monday. Frahm appeared in 25 games and averaged 2.6 points and 0.6 assists this season with the Timberwolves. He played nearly four minutes.

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